James Harper TAGGART [1885-1972] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

James Harper TAGGART [1885-1972]

James Harper
c.1885-01-01 (Month, Day are approximate)
Birthplace (country): 
c.1972-12-29 (Day is approximate)

His first mention in the Jurors Lists is in 1908, when he's listed as the Sub-Manager of the Hong Kong Hotel, and his address given as "on premises". He's shown with the same details for the lists in 1909-1911.

Then he gets a promotion, and the lists for 1912-1917 he's listed as the Manager of the Hong Kong Hotel.

From 1918-22 (the latest year we've transcribed so far), his title changes to Manager & Secretary, but other details remain the same.

He's still included in the 1941 list. That list doesn't show titles, so he is just listed as working for H.K. & Shanghai Hotels, Ld., and living on premises.


I've only just discovered this post, having been directed here after searching for James Harper Taggart on Google: I'm sorry to come so late to the party!  Assuming that 'this' Mr Taggart, and 'mine' are one and the same person (is there any likelihood that there may have been more than one man of this name in Hong Kong at this period?) I can tell you that by April 1948, he seems to have moved to California; his address at that time being: 1890 Broadway, San Francisco.

However...(there had to be a 'but'!). My information stems from a two or three letters exchanged between him and my grandfather, Robert Taylor of the Green Island Cement Company, during the period when my grandfather was planning his retirement. The letters are quite lengthy, and it appears that the two men knew each other well: Mr Taggart's are mostly very kind and generous expressions of appreciation for my grandfather's work. My grandfather's reply to his letters of April and June 1948 are a little more formal, perhaps because he was writing as Manager and General Secretary of the company, and giving Mr Taggart information about its progress as it got back on its feet after the war.

This is where I find myself confused - and curious. Mr Taggart must have had some official business connection with the Green Island Cement Company.  On 8th July 1948, my grandfather writes:

'In connection with the matter of your personal expenses incurred on behalf of the Company's rehabilitation, it was Mr Stewart's express wish to write to you himself on this subject, vide his letter dated 8th June, in an endeavour to show his own appreciation - as well as that of the other Members of the Board - of the valuable assistance and advice given by you in the past.'

There's nothing to indicate what kind of help and advice Mr Taggart had given, but the letter goes on to talk about the financial state of the company; a recent sale of some of its land (including the plot on which the Manager's house stood, which apparently necessitated my grandparents' hasty removal to a suite in the Peninsula Hotel on three weeks' notice; and the price of limestone.  Maybe someone who knows more about business than I do would be able to tell whether this is the kind of information that would normally be communicated to a shareholder, or whether (as I suspect) this suggests Mr Taggart had a closer interest in the business?

Both men refer to a visit Mr Taggart had made to Hong Kong some time previously, though there are no clues as to the dates he was there. Mr T himself notes: 'Incidentally, the quality of Scotch purveyed - following an inspection - well merited the visit, and served to whet ones [sic] appetite for future peregrinations!'

Is it at all possible that Mr Taggart was both Manager of the HK Hotel and closely involved with Green Island? It seems unlikely to me, but then, as I say, I know nothing about business. Maybe I'm scenting a mystery where none exists, and the two occupations were perfectly normal/compatible?

Do let me know if you'd like the full text of these letters, and I'll send them on. Incidentally, David, I haven't forgotten your kind interest in my grandfather's career, not your request for his biography. I'm ashamed to realise how long ago you asked; my silence hasn't been down to any lack of interest in the Gwulo and HK Industrial History sites, but rather to three house moves of my own, one move of my mother's, and major ongoing work on my latest (and, I hope, final) home: all in the space of seven years. Much of what we have in the way of family records has been in storage during this time, and it's literally only today that my sister and I started sifting through some of it, and found these letters. So, my sincere apologies - and I'll be coming back to you again!

Further news of James Harper Taggart - there's a website called HKEXNews.hk which has a brief summary of his career, but I don't know how to put the link up here. It seems he was/became Managing Director for the group of hotels owned by the Kadoories; responsible for the launch of the Repulse Bay Hotel and also, three years later, for helping to engineer the merger between Shanghai Hotels Ltd and the Hong Kong Hotel Company. Although forced to leave HK at the time of the Japanese occupation, when he went to the USA, it sounds as if he did return at some point, and served the company for a total of 61 years.

I've also found an entry for him on Ancestry.com: according to their records, he was born in Victoria, Australia, and married a lady named Mary Bowen Turner (who was American) at St Joseph's Church, Shanghai, on 23 February 1927


Thanks for the extra information.

I don't know what the connection with Green Island Cement was. He may well have been a shareholder. Aha, found it - on page 1 of The China Mail, 1931-03-18, the first article covers the AGM for Green Island Cement and notes 'Supporting the Chairman at the meeting were the following directors: Messrs. J. H. Taggart, ...'

So he was a director of the Green Island Cement company.

Thanks for the pointer to HKEXNEWS too. I found an article that might be the one you had in mind: on page 50 of a publication celebrating the 150th anniversary of the HK & Shanghai Hotels is an article 'Remembering James Taggart'.

Amazing! Thank you, David! I'll use these links and read about him further